I did it. I survived, and sometimes even thrived, Christmas day.
It is now Christmas night, and I sit here in my parents dining room on my laptop writing this blog.
I am staying with them for 10 days over the holiday, in Massachusetts, away from my usual NYC apartment and life.
I love being here. I love my family. However ...
and there is ALWAYS a "however" with grief ....
sometimes it hurts being around my family. It hurts a lot.Read more
I thought this week I would share one of the images from my self portrait series and the story behind it. While I was out shooting on the beach for last week’s photograph – wandering the grassy, windswept dunes – I came across a peculiar sight. Every plant on the beach was bright green and vibrant with life that day. Rich olive green sea grasses and succulent fat-leaved emerald vines with ripe yellow flowers. There must have been an unseasonable amount of rain recently because everything was really blushing. You could feel it – like all of nature had just taken in a deep breath.
But then, right in the middle of it all, I noticed this one particular type of plant. They were large – towering over me by at least a few feet. And every single one of them, as far as my eyes could see, over each rolling dune down the beach, was dead. All of them. There was such an eerie metaphoric nature to it… these clusters of death pitted right down in the midst of so much life. It seemed almost deliberate. Certainly hard to miss when you are closely observing a landscape as I often am.
With mosquitos biting boldly at my ankles and arms, (I will remember to add insect repellant to my camera bag from now on!) I grabbed my gear and climbed into a thicket of these otherworldly dead plants to explore. The leaves were a silvery blue-green hue – like faded sage. I had no plan. No idea what I even wanted to capture. I just began shooting, trying different ways of interacting with this mesmerizing space.Read more
A young widow in my on-line support group, who lost her husband to depression very recently, said something this week that really got me thinking. She had one of those moments that happen in the early days where you kind of forget your partner has gone - she picked up her phone to text him about something and then it hit her hard, she could never contact him and tell him her news again.
I had forgotten that feeling. After 16 months without Dan, I've pretty much adjusted to being on my own again. Sans-partner. Table for one. Lone wolf. I don't like it - God no, it's bloody awful and lonely and it freaking sucks. I miss him like my left arm, but I don't forget that he's gone anymore.Read more
My husband was a huge animal lover, and even more cool, animals absolutely loved him. They flocked to him. We would go over to other people's houses or just walk to a nearby park, and other people's pets would run up to him and want to play. If we went to anyone's home who had a dog, he was instantly playing with the dog. He always wanted a dog of his own, but because we lived in an apartment that didn't allow dogs, he used to say: "Someday, Boo. When we move to a bigger place or maybe buy a house or condo, I can have my husky/shepherd mix." Well, that never happened.
What did happen was that Don Shepherd packed up his entire life into a moving van in February of 2005, and, with his cat Isabelle in his lap the whole time, drove from Florida to New Jersey non-stop, to start a life with me. His cat Izzy was 13 at that time, and two years later, she got old and sick and we had to let her go. Don wanted to adopt another cat or kitten from the local rescue shelter, so we went there together and found two sisters that were only about 7 weeks old. They told us the sisters were a package deal, and so Don convinced me that we should take them. I was very hesitant about having two cats. I kept saying: "But I don't wanna be the crazy cat lady." He would say: "You'd need at least 3 cats to qualify as crazy cat lady, and crazy cat ladies usually don't have husbands. They just have cats."Read more
Maggie kept the beat in our relationship when it came to social engagements. She injected me into a lively social world that held me captive to weekends packed with activities, most of which were not optional. Now, without her overwhelming influence, I find myself woefully disengaged with what I think most people would consider normal life.
We had no children so I don’t benefit from the continued social pressure that comes with little ones. The lack of children also often filters me from events in which I’d otherwise be included. Well-meaning friends intentionally don’t invite me to birthday parties and other kid-thick events “to protect my sanity,” so they say.
Except for the brave and determined, friends who only knew Chris as half of Maggie and Chris have had difficultly making the transition. Most fell aside quickly after Maggie’s Angel Day. My guess is that they were battle-weary from the 850-day fight. However, for me that was just the climactic end of one major battle in the still on-going war.
So here I am with my solitary habits but now with fewer friends. Fewer friends mean fewer easy opportunities to be social. Gravity has temporarily dragged me into a lonely world.
My usually quiet, peaceful and tidy sanctuary of a home has been turned in to a messy playground for two boisterous little boys this weekend... and I'ver never been happier to have my orderly life turned up-side-down.
You see, Dan's sister is visiting from interstate with her husband and two young boys, aged two and four, and it's just been lovely to have his family so close.
All of Dan's family and most of his friends are based in Sydney, where he grew up and lived until moving to Brisbane for work, a year or so before we met. Being more than 1000 kilometres away it would be easy to feel quite isolated in my mourning of him.
I am not sure where it came from.
I am not sure why.
I am not sure what actions or non-actions or grief-work or thoughts led to this way that I feel today.
This week. This moment. This now.
I am not sure of anything, but it happened.
I am back to loving Christmas.
Monday morning of this week, after 3 years and almost 4 months of living with the death of my husband, it happened. It was nothing overly-dramatic or huge in the way that it happened. I was just sitting there, in my room, when suddenly, I found myself thinking, out of absolutely nowhere: Maybe for Christmas this year it might be nice to have a stocking again and some presents. Maybe we can go to my brother's house and have fried dough and hot chocolate with whipped cream and marshmallow and each get scratch-off tickets with our breakfast like we used to. I'm kind of excited to go shopping for my family. Maybe Ill run up to the mall in New Hampshire after I get back to mom and dad's this year in Massachusetts for the holidays. Maybe I can sign up to do some Christmas caroling with a local group through Meetup.com or something.
Maybe, maybe, maybe .....Read more
The weather is warming up here in sunny Queensland, Australia, with Spring in full swing and Summer just around the corner. Last weekend I popped over to visit my sister and her family, who live a few streets away, and they'd just enjoyed their very first swim in their brand new backyard pool.
The sun was getting ready to set, casting its golden glow over the sky. My brother-in-law was cooking a BBQ, with a beer in hand and the football on in the background while my three nephews were running around to dry off from their swim. My sister and I sat amongst it all enjoying a glass of wine. And I felt happy.
Of course I wished Dan was there, the ache for him is ever-present, but in that moment, surrounded by people I love and looking up at a bright blue sky I was content and my heart was at peace.Read more
I feel like I’ve been in a rut for more than a month now, since Dan’s first anniversary. I’ve had days here and there where I’ve been able to smile and actually mean it, but in general, the pain has been very deep and the ache for him, overwhelming.
The grief has been so relentless that it’s started messing with my head and making me question if I was doing something wrong. If I’d gotten stuck in it some how. Was I doing enough to keep moving forward?
I mean, I know this dance well by now, the three-steps-forward, two-steps-back tango. I know I need to keep my expectations realistic and that this is a marathon, not a sprint. I know that I can’t project manage my way out of this, yet in the dark of the night when the tears won’t slow and my heart feels like it’s going to stop beating from the sheer agony, I forget that this moment will pass and I’ll take steps forward again.
My guy is currently on his way to learn to paraglide. I couldn't go with him because of a prior engagement so I'm waiting to hear that he is back on the ground. I know he's more likely to die in a car crash than on this contraption in the air today, but many things could go wrong. Most likely they won't, but they could. I'll be anxious, but only in the background. The foreground of my brain will be able to function today. I'm not a puddle of tears or anxiety. Hopefully I won't even get a migraine.
Dave was safety man. Safety first was his motto. He didn't take big risks. He never flirted with danger, ever. He didn't have any desire to chase after adrenaline rushes. I didn't have any cause to worry about him. Until I did. Nothing could have kept him safe from myocarditis. I had no inkling that I needed to worry about that. So, even if my warning signs were going off now about paragliding, what reason do I have to listen? I had no warning signs back then. Or they were kaput, who knows. There's just no way to know when tragedy is coming.